Monday, September 17, 2007

Princeton Children's Book Festival (Trip Report)

On Saturday, I was one of the participating authors at the Princeton Children's Book Festival. It was AWESOME.

I am happy to report that I did NOT head the wrong direction on the New Jersey Turnpike this time. This was the result of me repeating over and over for about three hours: "south and west, south and west, south and west, except for route 18 where you're briefly north... south and west, south and west."

Seriously, I'm like a sheep when I drive. I don't trust my own sense of direction. Whenever I see lots of people taking a particular exit, I start wondering if I should have taken that exit. Where are they going? What do they know that I don't know? What's wrong with the way I'm going? Maybe there's construction up ahead... or the road ends... or there's a wildebeest stampede...

Anyway, I made it to Princeton at precisely 11:30am. I greeted the awesomely-organized-and-nice librarians and volunteers who run the festival, as well as the wonderful Mary and Robert Brown from Books Bytes and Beyond who were selling books (including mine!) at the festival. I was then introduced to my assistant for the day, Sasha, who helped me set up my vines and lay out bookmarks and such.

All of this took about 28 minutes, which left me with exactly 2 minutes before the festival was scheduled to begin. Two minutes is just enough time to agonize over whether or not that's enough time to go get lunch. Of course, by the time you decide that is enough time, the two minutes are up. So no lunch for me. Probably should have asked my assistant to fetch me some food, but I didn't know if that was appropriate. I've never had an assistant before.

I was seated between two very awesome people. On one side of me was the wonderful Margery Cuyler, author of many fabulous picture books such as The Bumpy Little Pumpkin (just read it -- very sweet) and Skeleton Hiccups. On the other side of me was fellow Class of 2k7er Rose Kent, author of the very cool Kimchi & Calamari (which I can't wait to read -- isn't that a great title?).

For the next several hours, I proceeded to talk to anyone who was foolish enough to venture close to my table. Met lots of really great people, including one woman who had gotten a galley of Into the Wild at NY ComicCon and bought a hardcover at the festival anyway, for me to sign. How cool is that?!

Twice, I left my booth in the hands of Sasha so that I could meet other authors at the festival, specifically Michael Buckley and David Wiesner. Michael Buckley is the author of the bestselling Sisters Grimm series. I had such a nice time talking fairy tales with him. So great to meet him. He is really super sweet and very cool. And he bought a copy of Into the Wild, which grants him extra sweet-and-cool points.

David Wiesner is the multiple-Caldecott-winning author and artist of Flotsam, Tuesday, and others and is also super-sweet. My conversation with him went something like this:

Me: [gushing] Hi. I just wanted to tell you that I think your books are beautiful and brilliant.

David: You're Sarah Beth.

Me: [long pause in which I replay what I said to see if I'd said my name -- I hadn't] Yes.

David: I read your book. I really liked it.

Me: You read my book.

David: I was looking forward to meeting you.

Me: You read my book.

David: My kids had gotten it so I read it.

Me: You read my book.

David: I thought the image in the beginning with the Wild under her bed was especially great. I wish I'd thought of that first to paint it.

Me: [sound of jaw hitting pavement] You read my book.

Okay, maybe I was a wee bit more articulate than that, but seriously, I nearly did the Snoopy Dance of Joy right there. David Caldecott-Winning Wiesner read and liked my book!

Also very cool: I met and had a very nice conversation with Wendy Lamb (of Wendy Lamb Books). We chatted about Princeton (as she's been living in the area for the past few months). And she bought a copy of my book!

At 4pm, I did my reading in the Community Room of the Princeton Public Library. Several girls who had bought my book came to hear me read. I did the Little Red scene (chapter ten), which is my favorite scene to read since it gives a taste of the Wild without giving too much of the plot away. And I get to do Little Red's voice.

But the coolest thing of all was a moment that was repeated many times through the afternoon: a young girl (about the age that I was when I started writing) would come up and ask me to sign a copy of Into the Wild. I'd bring out my trusty purple pen and sign it. Then the girl would thank me, and I'd watch her walk away hugging my book. I could see myself in those girls so clearly. I was them.

The festival ended at 5pm. Allison Santos, the event organizer extraordinaire, gave each of the authors a Princeton Children's Book Festival T-shirt (which I'm wearing right now as I write this), and everyone packed up and headed home.

Okay, everyone else headed home. I headed for FOOD and then home, which brings me to my final bit of coolness for the day: mango muffins. Hands down, the yummiest muffin I've ever eaten.

And that was my Saturday. Hope you all had a good weekend!

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At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sounds like the best Book Festival EVER! Good golly! Too cool.

"Skeleton Hiccups" is one of my daughter's favorite books! (Mainly, I think because she loves that hic-up noise, and sometimes it gives me the hic-ups when I do it. And she thinks that is cool. She's 4.)

Personally, I would have wet my pants if David Wiesner had said he wished he had painted a scene from a book I had written. (Which probably makes it a good thing that its never going to happen.) Congrats on your self control!
Did you hit him up for future cover art?! You wouldn't want to deprive him of future fantastic scenes. (You know he did do the first edition covers for the first three books in Tamora Pierce's Alanna series. )

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

H: I had no idea he did the covers for those books. So cool!!


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